Tuesday, January 08, 2013

5 Data that Point to God

Maumee Bay State Park, Ohio

Linda and I arrived in Dayton a few hours ago. Tomorrow morning I'll drive 17 miles to Payne Theological Seminary and teach, from 9-6, my first day of Spiritual Formation to Master's students. Now we're in our hotel room, and Linda is taking a nap. I decided to watch the debate on God's existence between philosophers William Lane Craig and Peter Millican. I'll make a few comments along the way.

First, Bill begins by saying he's going to defend two conclusions: 1) The existence of God provides a good explanation for five data; and 2) atheism does not explain these 5 data. Therefore theism is more probable than atheism.

Note that Bill presents "5 data" for God's existence. Sometimes I hear people say "There is no evidence for God's existence." But that is false, as one can see by listening to Bill present his case. Theistic philosophers such as Bill and myself make the case for God on the basis of evidence, not the absence of evidence.

Datum #1 is: The origin of the universe. That is, our universe began to exist. Here Bill presents the Kalam Cosmological Argument for God's Existence. Students in my MCCC Philosophy of Religion classes should be familiar with this argument. For a very sweet and fairly understandable presentation of this argument see Bill's book On Guard. (I'll be using On Guard in my spring Redeemer Ministry School Apologetics class.)

Bill here formulates the Kalam argument as:

  1. The universe began to exist.
  2. If the universe began to exist, then the universe has a transcendent cause. 
  3. Therefore, the universe has a transcendent cause.
Datum #2 is: The fine-tuning of the universe for intelligent life. Please note once again that this datum is an empirical given, which demands an explanation. The argument for God's existence that reasons from this datum is, thus, an empirical argument. The person who claims "There are no empirical reasons to believe in God" is therefore simply wrong and misguided.

Again, my philosophy students will recognize this argument. But note that Bill here formulates the fine-tuning argument is a way different from that of Robin Collins. The argument is:

  1. The origin of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.
  2. It is not due to either physical necessity or design.
  3. Therefore, it is due to design. 
The existence of our fine-tuned universe demands the existence of a Grand Designer. Watch the debate to see Bill explicate 1 and 2.

Datum #3: Objective moral values and duties in the world. Bill formulates this argument as I do in my Philosophy of Religion classes.
  1. If God does not exist, then objective moral values and duties do not exist.
  2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.
  3. Therefore, God exists.
Some people say that the existence of evil disproves the existence of God. Bill thinks the existence of real evil in the world actually serves to prove the existence of God. "Real evil in the world actually serves to prove the existence of God, since without God to ground objective moral values "good" and "evil" as such would not exist.

Datum #4: The historical facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Bill gives three historical facts that are best explained by the resurrection of Jesus. So we have the following argument.
  1. There are three established historical facts about Jesus: his empty tomb, his post-mortem appearances, and the origin of the disciples' belief in the resurrection.
  2. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" is the best explanation of these facts.
  3. The hypothesis "God raised Jesus from the dead" entails that God exists.
  4. Therefore, God exists.
Datum #5: The personal experience of God. This isn't an argument for God's existence. Rather, it is the claim that you can know that God exists wholly apart from arguments simply by immediately experiencing him. Bill quotes his doctoral mentor at the University of Birmingham, the famous philosopher John Hick, who writes: 

"God was known to them as a dynamic will interacting with their own wills, a sheer given reality, as inescapably to be reckoned with as destructive storm and life-giving sunshine . . . They did not think of God as an inferred entity but as an experienced reality. To them God was not . . . an idea adopted by the mind, but an experiential reality which gave significance to their lives."

After Bill's presentation Peter Millican makes his case against God's existence.

Millican begins by citing the variety of cultures past and present in the world, and their varying ideas about God and/or gods. He claims that most people hold to the religious views they do, not as a result of rational-logical thought processes, but because of their unchosen cultural worldview. OK. I think this is true. But, philosophically, so what? On this reasoning Millican's own observations are culture-laden.

Millican claims that scientific beliefs are not culturally dependent. He says: "Scientific beliefs do not depend on cultural indoctrination for their acceptance and transmission.As a result, you won't find scientific theories being geographically determined anything the way like religions are." I doubt this claim. At the very least any defense of it will be, necessarily, non-scientific. 

Millican says he suspects Bill will accuse him of committing the genetic fallacy. Everyone laughs at this comment. I'm thinking the same, and just what Millican's sociological observations have to do with Bill's argument. I think... nothing. Millican clarifies his argument, saying:

If some method of acquiring beliefs leads to lots of different and conflicting beliefs, then that method cannot obviously be relied on. Call this statement M1. 

Many of the religious belief systems of the world clearly do conflict with each other, so they cannot all be true. (Millican is correct about this. Anyone who thinks All the world's religions point in the same direction is simply uninformed and irrational.

When Bill speaks again he does accuse Millican of committing the genetic fallacy.

I think Bill makes a good point re. M1. This point is:
  •  While there indeed are varying religious beliefs in world history, they do not use "the same method." Bill says if they do use the same method, then he would like to know what that method is.
  • Bill then says that Peter and he are using the same method; viz., empirical claims and logical reasoning re. those claims.
  • Therefore, Peter's sociological comments are false re. M1, and inconsequential to the arguments for God Bill is presenting.
It's all fun listening. But Linda is waking up from her nap, and we're going down to the pool and whirlpool to relax!